Revived, Hudson River Swim for Life Plunges Ahead w/Support from New NY Bridge Team
Sunny spirits, high energy and enthusiasm abounded at the 23rd annual Hudson River Swim for Life. What began as a charitable act for Blythedale Children’s Hospital by an Irvington police officer in 1992 — a swim from Piermont to the dock in Irvington — ended with 62 people braving the river on July 27.
“The Coast Guard and other resources suggested we do the one-mile swim,” Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® Executive Director Dennis Chillemi said, foregoing the three-mile route from Nyack Marina in Rockland County to Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow. “That’s only happened three times in 23 years.”
During his seven years there, Chillemi raised more than $1 million for LLS. And the annual Swim was his legacy.
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Declining interest, concerns about the quality of the river, and the bridge project prompted him to discontinue the event after September. While people working on the project swam and had a great time last year, Chillemi said, “The future of the Swim was in doubt, and it was officially ended.”
For about one month.
“Brian (Conybeare) called and said let’s keep it going,” and offered to help through sponsorship, he said. And the swim was on.
With the bridge project ramping up, safety was especially worrisome. “We have a meeting each year prior to the swim about protocols for getting boats out of the water safely,” Chillemi said.
Conybeare suggested, and it was agreed, that the safety personnel and officials from the project help sponsor the 6th annual Sleepy Hollow Sprint Triathlon (June 29), and the 23rd annual swim (July 27).
Monies for research are first priority, as are advocacy efforts, and access to necessary medications. “We (LLS) gave $52 million to patients for copay assistance,” Chillemi said. “LLS is a repository and leading knowledge base, providing direct services to families through clinical trials and educational components.”
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is a national voluntary health agency dedicated to curing leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and to improving the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS was established in 1949 as The de Villiers Foundation. In 2000, LLS changed its name from The Leukemia Society of America to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to emphasize its commitment to fighting all blood cancers.
Today, LLS supports the following major programs: research, patient services, public and professional education, advocacy and community services. With headquarters in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapter offices across the United States and is a single corporation doing business under New York State nonprofit corporate laws.
The triathlon raised $175,000, a portion of which was sponsorship, and people fundraising on behalf of LLS. While the final numbers haven’t been tallied, as of last week, the swim raised $65,000.
“TZC was honored to work in partnership with the New York State Thruway Authority to be the main sponsor for this year’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Triathlon and Swim for Life events,” Community Outreach Manager Carla Julian said. “TZC sponsored the cause at $50,000 through the Community Benefits Program, and teams from the New NY Bridge project swam in the event last Sunday (July 27).”
Chillemi said his family history in Tarrytown goes back to the mid-1880s, “a multi-generational and longstanding family.” His father was a reporter and one of the first to drive across the newly built Tappan Zee Bridge.
His inspiration was contagious: a solo swim that raised $25,000 for the children’s hospital grew to 300 participants some years. Be it serendipity or aiding a worthy cause, he credits the New NY Bridge project with saving the Swim, “and I’m very grateful for that.” And although its future is uncertain, anything is possible.
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Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014